- Arts & Life
Whether driving up to the York Hill campus or pumping up the crowd during athletic events at the TD Bank Sports Center, Quinnipiac’s ferocious mascot Boomer the Bobcat catches the eye of students and adults alike. More than eight years ago, Quinnipiac introduced Boomer to the world, and has since become Bobcat nation.
“I think Boomer is really the icon of the University, especially now in terms of what the school has done with the athletic
department,” said Andrew Mallardi, a 2004 alumnus and the first Boomer in school history.
Mallardi entered Quinnipiac in 2000 as the school began its transformation from “college” to “university” because of new academic offerings. Another big change occurred after the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommended in April 2001 that all schools using Native American mascots or nicknames (like the Quinnipiac Braves) change to something less offensive.
The commission declared the mascots were “false portrayals that encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people.”
According to Director of Athletics and Recreation Jack McDonald, Quinnipiac went without a nickname from December 2001 to August 2002 due to the recommendation.
“We thought it was a prime time to take a look at the nickname ‘Braves,’” McDonald said.
Students were a major factor in the decision, according to McDonald. Multiple mascots were considered, including Coyotes and Jaguars. However, the deciding committee felt few schools shared the Bobcat as a mascot.
“It’s very hard to show school spirit using Native American icons and school imagery,” McDonald said. “It has really been enhanced by changing the name to Bobcats.”
According to the fall 2002 issue of Quinnipiac Magazine, the mascot change from Braves to Bobcats created an identity that “more fully captures the energy and enthusiasm of Quinnipiac athletics,” President John Lahey said in an article.
Mallardi experienced the transition first-hand when he came out as Boomer at Midnight Madness that year.
“It was around November (2002) when they revealed Boomer, and it was in the gymnasium after they just redid it. Everyone was there, all the teams and captains were all lined up,” Mallardi said. “Running out when they announced it was just amazing. It’s just here’s the mascot for the rest of this institution’s life, just pretty incredible.”
Boomer, however, isn’t just one person. It takes a team of up to 15 people to maintain the image of Boomer–everything from costume care to mascot training.
“This is my first year here working with Boomer, and it’s definitely a lengthy process,” said Matthew Calcagni, athletic ticket manager at the TD Bank Sports Center. “It’s a team effort that we try to get everyone involved with.”
The team of Quinnipiac employees, student workers, and Hamden volunteers create everything related to Boomer. The actual workers in the suit go through tryouts, training and lessons in “mascot etiquette,” meeting the charismatic needs of a mascot over time.
“It’s really difficult; just imagine having a large head and feet,” Calcagni said. “In the past years, we’ve had one incident where the head popped off, but it was in front of a smaller crowd so not too many kids were scarred by it.”
Along with in-game appearances, Boomer is seen as a member of the Hamden community, making appearances at local youth leagues and other public events, according to Calcagni.
Whether at an event in Hamden or courtside cheering on the Bobcats, Boomer’s influence is expanding farther than Quinnipiac, into Connecticut culture itself.
“To me, he represents Quinnipiac,” Calcagni said. “He is Quinnipiac.”
Photo credit: Charlotte Greene
Video credit: QU Athletics